Organ traffickers preyed on poor
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Phnom Penh - A Cambodian court on Friday sentenced three people to between 10 and 15 years jail for organ trafficking, after they persuaded poor Cambodians to sell their kidneys to wealthy compatriots undergoing dialysis in Thailand.
The convictions were the first for organ trafficking in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.
Yem Azisah, 29, received a 15-year jail sentence after Phnom Penh Municipal Court found her “guilty of trafficking people with the purpose of organ removal”.
Her step-father Phalla, 49, who has been released on bail, and her 22-year-old brother-in-law Pheng Sabay, who remains at large, were sentenced to 10 years each as accomplices in kidney trafficking, the judge said.
The court also ordered the trio to pay $7 000 to each of their victims.
Yem Azisah and Phalla were arrested in July when two people - both cousins - filed a police complaint saying they had been persuaded to sell their kidneys by the group for wealthy Cambodians on dialysis.
The removal procedure was done in a gleaming hospital in neighbouring Thailand.
AFP interviewed one of the gang's victims last summer - an 18-year-old man.
From a tumble down shack on the outskirts of Phnom Penh he described resorting to selling his kidney for $3 000 in 2012 because of grinding poverty and mounting debts.
Trafficking is a widespread problem in impoverished Cambodia and police routinely investigate cases linked to the sex trade, forced marriage or slavery.
But this was the first case related to organs, a trade more common in places like India and Nepal.
The complicity of donors, whether compelled by poverty or coerced by unscrupulous brokers, makes it an under-reported crime which is difficult to expose.
In August media reports emerged about new alleged organ trafficking cases at a military hospital in Phnom Penh.
But police and court officials, who investigated the case, said it was a training exercise between Chinese and Cambodian doctors, using voluntary Vietnamese donors and patients.
Driving the demand for a black market in organs is the globally soaring number of sick patients waiting for transplants, especially kidneys.